“Batonga is giving girls a secondary school and higher education so they can take the lead in changing Africa. We are doing this by granting scholarships, building secondary schools, increasing enrollment, improving teaching standards, providing school supplies, supporting mentor programs, exploring alternative education models and advocating for community awareness of the value of education for girls.
There is a growing consensus that the most cost effective way to help African nations reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for their citizens is to support education for girls. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan summed it up when he said, “To educate girls is to reduce poverty.”
When a woman is educated, it changes not only her life but those of her children and her family. Educating women translates to higher economic productivity, reduced child mortality, improved family nutrition and health, and increased prevention of HIV/AIDS. It greatly increases the chances of education for the next generation—for both boys and girls.
The good news is that more girls are going to primary school throughout Africa than ever before. However, prejudice, poverty, travel distance and cultural traditions keeps less than 17 percent of them from going on to complete secondary school (grades 7 to 12). And only a handful of those who graduate from secondary school go on to university, vocational school or some form of job training.
If the great advances in primary education for girls in Africa are to have a lasting impact, there is an urgent need for similar advances in secondary and higher education for girls.
West African singer, songwriter and UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo made up the word “batonga.” At a time when education for girls was not socially acceptable in her native country of Benin, Angelique invented the word as a response to taunts when she was going to school. The boys did not know what the word meant, but to her it was an assertion of the rights of girls to education.
Later it became the title of a hit song of Angelique’s in which her lyrics address a young African girl and can be roughly translated as, “you are poor but you dance like a princess, and you can do as you please regardless of what anyone tells you.” Now Angelique has given this name to a new US-based non-governmental organization that has submitted its application for non-profit 501(c)(3) registered charitable status.
“Educating girls in Africa gives them the strength and the tools they need to be the mothers of change,” Angelique said when launching Batonga. “My mother was educated and she fought for me to go to school, despite pressure from many in our extended family who argued that only boys should be educated. And my daughter is now in school. Once an African woman is educated, she fights to ensure both sons and daughters receive an education. From this is born a tradition that is passed on and grows from family to family, from generation to generation—a tradition that is going to change the future for Africa.”
Batonga’s mission is to support both secondary school and higher education for girls in Africa. We are doing this by granting scholarships, building secondary schools, increasing enrollment, improving teaching standards, providing school supplies, supporting mentor programs, exploring alternative education models and advocating for community awareness of the value of education for girls.
The work of Batonga in Africa is to:
grant scholarships for girls to attend existing secondary schools (grades 7 to 12), with continued support as they progress through university, vocational school or other skill-based adult learning activities.
build secondary schools in a limited number of communities that can guarantee that a minimum of half the students will be girls and where the school, once built, will be operated through ongoing government and community support.
increase enrollment of girls in existing schools by building dormitory facilities where distance from school to home are too great, and providing parental support and incentives that help to ensure the girls stay in school.
improve teaching standards in secondary schools by supporting internet-based distance learning, wage incentives, enhanced summer programs, mentoring by master teachers and onsite teacher-training programs.
provide school supplies in the form of textbooks, library books, teaching materials, notebooks, paper, pens, pencils and other basic items which are often non-existent or in short supply.
support mentor programs for girl students that link them with older women who can serve as guides and elder ‘protectors’ as the girls face challenges both personal and social during the course of their education.
explore alternative education models such as mobile secondary schools and radio-based distance learning for remote communities or for families with cultural restrictions on girls being sent away from home for schooling.
advocate for community awareness to promote and support girls’ education by addressing the gender prejudice and cultural traditions that restrict the empowerment of women in general, and their access to education in particular.
In choosing the individual girls, schools and communities to receive support, priority is given to the most disadvantaged populations within the target countries. Particular attention is given to girls who are AIDS orphans or whose families are affected by AIDS. They will receive scholarships as well as financial assistance so that they can stay among their neighbors, friends and extended families in their communities rather than on the street or in an orphanage.
Batonga implements its mission at a country level by working in partnership with existing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have successful onsite experience in girls’ education. Our work is guided by the input of a Board of Advisors who have extensive experience in this field.
The principle international partnership is with World Education. Using education as a primary strategy, World Education unleashes the deep instinct, drive and potential of people at the community level through groundbreaking programs that build the skills, talents and confidence they need to take control over their futures.
Batonga is supported by The Opportunity Fund, a non-profit charitable organization established by John Phillips and Mary Louise Cohen with proceeds from two public interest lawsuits. The Fund supports charitable organizations in the United States and in Africa.
World Education is an implementing partner of Batonga. Visit World Education's website to learn more about their Girls' and Women's Education Initiative